Thursday, March 30, 2006

Piano Lesson, Part I

Yesterday's lesson wasn't really a lesson. It was strange. Since I started teaching school, I've typically had one of two types of lessons each Wednesday:

- If I've practiced, we have a "real," traditional lesson
- If I haven't had time to practice, we have a "practice lesson," in which she basically lets me practice and merely offers tips and pointers as she listens and does other things.

I had practiced this week, but not a lot because I was swamped in school stuff. So I told Deborah I thought I needed a practice lesson. She was fine with that. (It's nice having a piano teacher who doesn't get mad when I don't practice; she knows it's not because I'm lazy, and that very few things--other than wild horses and a crazy school schedule--can really keep me away from George.)

We started out going through some contrary-motion scales and arpeggios before she left me alone. The strangest thing happened then: I felt as if I was brimming with musicality. Like I was bringing the most lovely tone to the piano--rather than simply striking the keys and hearing the piano make plinks and plunks. Think of Spiderman releasing his web from his wrist. It was as if I was doing the same with musical expression.

I played my C-minor contrary-motion scale with the same feeling I might give a Chopin nocturne. Only it felt more musical than anything I've played since I started playing piano again. Maybe ever.

After I finished it, Deborah said something like, "Wow, that really sounded good!" So I went on to other scales and arpeggios and had the same result: all this odd new musicality, just flowing forth into the keys. I felt so relaxed and so confident, like the piano was finally starting to "break in" after two and a half years of struggle. (I know. I'm probably the one who's being broken in.)

So after I played the scales, I said, "Let me try the Bach sinfonia. I think I have it by memory."

So I played it. Or, I should say, my hands played it, and I just watched and listened, slightly befuddled but delighted at the same time. The dynamics weren't completely there, but the notes were. The dynamics would have been there if I hadn't felt like a novice skier whose skis have just taken off and are gliding me gently and expertly down the slope. I just felt like I was along for the ride of the sinfonia. And a very pleasant ride it was.

When I finished, Deborah said it sounded "amazing." Or "unbelievable." Or "really wonderful." Or some other superlative I'd never earned in playing that piece.

I'm not sure what's clicked. All of that drilling, slow practice, concentration, and focus on rectifying my bad technique--more than two years conscientious practicing now--are finally, I guess, revealing their magical effects. I don't remember the last time I felt that much at home at the piano.

I've loved every minute of playing since I started playing again. And this isn't to say that I haven't played well in the last two years, because I think I have. But yesterday was different. There was something new in my playing. Something good.

I have more to write about the lesson, but I have a date with my Narnia notes when the coffee shop opens at 6 a.m. Must run for now!

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